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14 October, 2013


Audit faults Boeing for overcharging US military

The Boeing Corporation has overcharged or erroneously charged the US military at least four times in the past five years, according to a new report from the Pentagon’s inspector general. The second-largest defense contractor is accused of charging the Department of Defense as much as $16.6 million for new helicopter parts before it “primarily installed used parts instead.” The report also alleges that the Chicago-based company charged the Pentagon for parts that were never installed and then keeping those same parts for future use. Boeing denied the accusations, saying it has been “fully compliant” with government orders.


​California Gov. Brown vetoes electronic communications privacy bill

California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a state online privacy bill that aimed to give more protection from warrantless searches of residents’ electronic communications. The bill required authorities to obtain a warrant before searching electronic data and notify the user within three days of accessing the communications. The bill would have superseded federal law requirements in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act “and could impede ongoing criminal investigations,” Brown said in his veto statement. “I do not think that is wise.”


35 injured, 20 missing in S. African pharma lab blast

At least 35 people were taken to hospital with burn wounds and 20 more are missing after an explosion at the Rolfe pharmaceutical laboratory in the South African town of Middelburg, local police said Monday. The blast started a fire and partly damaged the laboratory’s building, and rescue workers have been searching the area for people who might have been trapped. While the cause of the incident was not immediately clear, police are investigating it as a possible arson case.


Russia denies bail for Greenpeace captain and 2 activists

Russia denied bail on Monday for the American captain of the Greenpeace ship Artic Sunrise, Peter Wilcox along with two other foreign activists, who are among the 30 environmentalists arrested and charged with piracy over a protest at an artic drilling platform. The Artic 30, as they have become known, face charges of piracy for trying to scale the Prirazlomnoe oil rig as part of a peaceful protest. They could face up to 15 years in prison. Greenpeace say the charges are unfounded and absurd.


Egyptian police fire tear gas at pro-Morsi protesters

Supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi had gathered east of the Meditation city of Alexandria on Monday afternoon, following calls from the Muslim Brotherhood to break their fast together on the eve of the Muslim feast Eid Al-Adha. The protesters attempted to block the seafront road by the Stanley Bridge, before clashing with security forces. Three people were arrested. The Brotherhood has repeatedly called for street protests since former President Morsi was ousted in what they say was a coup.


US ready to ease sanctions if Iran allays concerns over nuke program

Ahead of a new round of nuclear talks, six world powers hope to reach an agreement with Iran that eases all international concerns over Tehran's nuclear program, but are not "naive" about the difficulty of achieving such a deal, a senior US administration official said on Monday. “No one should expect a breakthrough overnight,” the official said, as cited by Reuters. The source added that the US was ready to offer Iran rapid relief from economic sanctions if Tehran moved quickly to address concerns that the goal of its controversial program was to create nuclear weapons. Iran maintains its project is purely peaceful. On Tuesday, Tehran and the group known as P5+1 comprising the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany are gathering for talks in Geneva.


Obama, Biden to meet Congress leaders on fiscal impasse, warn of ‘no concessions’

US President Barack Obama and US Vice President Joe Biden will meet Congressional leaders Monday in an effort to break the impasse on extending the US debt ceiling and ending a government shutdown, the White House said in a statement. Obama is going to make clear the need for Congress to act, the statement said, adding that the administration will not be forced into concessions and “will not pay a ransom for Congress reopening the government and raising the debt limit.” Obama “continues to urge Congress to pass a bill that raises the debt ceiling and lends the certainty our businesses and the economy needs,” the White House said.


Supreme Court upholds sentence of Pussy Riot’s Samutsevich

The Russian Supreme Court has upheld the verdict handed down to Pussy Riot punk group member Yekaterina Samutsevich. She got a two-year suspended sentence for staging a performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, 2012. “The complaint has been turned down,” Interfax reported, citing a statement posted on the Supreme Court's website. Samutsevich had sought a reversal of the verdict, passed by Moscow's Khamovnichesky Court. Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are serving two-year jail sentences for the same performance.


Russia to seek Uralkali CEO extradition from Belarus, opens criminal case

The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner. “The criminal case has been opened under Article 201 of the Russian Criminal Code, for abuse of power,” Interfax quoted committee spokesman Vladimir Markin as saying. Moscow will seek his extradition from Belarus, he added.


Man carrying knife held near Buckingham Palace

Police arrested a 44-year-old man who tried to enter Buckingham Palace carrying a knife, Scotland Yard said. The man tried to enter via the palace's north center gate at about 11:30GMT but was apprehended at once, the BBC reported. He was found to be carrying a knife and was taken to a London police station.


Netanyahu warns that easing Iran pressure would be 'historic mistake'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the West against easing pressure on Iran. “It would be a historic mistake to ease the pressure on Iran a moment before the sanctions achieve their objective,” AFP quoted him as saying at the opening of the Israeli parliament's winter session. “Particularly at this moment we must not give up on them, we must keep up the pressure,” he said. The statement came a day before world powers were to hold a fresh round of talks with Iran over its nuclear program. The two-day meeting, which begins in Geneva on Tuesday, will be the first talks since Iran's President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.


Arctic Sunrise captain to remain in detention in Greenpeace trial

The Murmansk region court on Monday turned down the appeal by the Arctic Sunrise’s captain, Peter Wilcox, against his pre-trial detention. “If I could start everything over, I’d stay in New York. I have many regrets,” RIA Novosti quoted Wilcox as saying during a break in his appeal hearing. The Greenpeace ship was seized by Russian border guards on September 19 in international waters, within Russia's exclusive economic zone, a day after two of its activists scaled Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya drilling rig in the Pechora Sea. Similar appeals filed by both foreign and Russian members of the Greenpeace crew were rejected. Also appealing unsuccessfully Monday was Argentinean national Camila Speziale.


Four out of seven kidnapped Red Cross workers freed in Syria

Three of the six Red Cross aid workers abducted by gunmen in northwest Syria on Sunday have been released, along with a volunteer from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. “We confirm that they… have been released safe and sound,” Robert Mardini, head of International Committee of the Red Cross operations for the Near and Middle East, said in a tweet Monday. They were released in the Idlib region, Reuters reported, citing ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson. The fate of the remaining three aid workers is not clear.


Belgium arrests Somali pirate 'Big Mouth'

One of Somalia's most notorious pirate leaders, known as Big Mouth, has been arrested in Brussels, judicial sources said Monday. Mohamed Abdi Hassan, known as ‘Afweyne’ (Big Mouth), was being held in Bruges after being detained at Brussels airport on Saturday on disembarking from a flight from Nairobi, AFP reported. Afweyne announced in Mogadishu in January that he was quitting piracy after a highly profitable eight-year career. He was reportedly involved in the 2008 capture of the Saudi-owned Sirius Star oil supertanker and the capture the same year of the MV Faina, a Ukrainian transport ship carrying 33 refurbished Soviet-era battle tanks.


Death toll in new Egypt clashes reaches 51

A national holiday celebrating the military has reportedly turned to mayhem, leaving 51 dead across the country. Sunday's clashes between security forces and Islamist protesters came as crowds from supporters of the ousted Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and backers of the military turned on each other, AP reported. Morsi's supporters fired birdshot and threw firebombs at police who responded with gunshots and tear gas. Streets were left strewn with debris. It was the highest death toll in a single day in violence in Egypt since Aug. 14. Security forces then raided two sit-in protest camps by Morsi's supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds.


Moscow court upholds criminal charges against Navalny brothers

The Moscow City Court rejected the appeal from opposition activist Aleksey Navalny over the criminal charges brought against him and his brother Oleg in the Yves Rocher Vostok case on Monday. The court refused to repeal the lower-level court's ruling, and the investigation period has been extended through December 13, Interfax reports. Investigators say Navalny set up a firm and his brother, the head of the Russian Post domestic mailing service department, allegedly manipulated Yves Rocher Vostok into signing a transportation services contract with that firm. Navalny describes the case as politically motivated.


Bangladesh garment factory workers detain boss over unpaid bonus

Workers at a Bangladeshi garment factory on Monday freed a boss they had held captive in his office for more than 18 hours. He was freed after he paid a promised bonus, Reuters said. The incident was the first involving the forced confinement of a factory boss as confrontation continues between management and workers earning minimum wages equivalent to $38 a month.


Mullah Omar says Taliban to fight US-Afghan security deal

The Afghan Taliban will keep fighting if the government in Kabul signs a security deal with the US, Mullah Mohammad Omar said Monday. The secretive leader of Taliban called on his fighters to intensify their insurgent campaign against Afghan and NATO forces, AP reported. In an email distributed to media on the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, he also urged all Afghans to boycott next year's vote to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai.


Americans Fama, Hansen and Shiller win Nobel Prize in economic sciences

Americans Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller have won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences “for their empirical analysis of asset prices.” Sweden's central bank added the economics prize in 1968 as a memorial to Alfred Nobel. The Nobel committees have now announced all six of the annual $1.2 million awards for 2013.


US secretary of state says Syria conference must be organized urgently

US Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria say an international conference to set up a Syrian transitional government must be organized urgently and held as soon as possible. Envoy Lakdhar Brahimi and Kerry spoke Monday after meeting in London, AP reported. Kerry said it's imperative to get the so-called Geneva II conference organized by the mid-November target the UN has set. Brahimi will travel to the Middle East this week to see representatives of all sides to try to plan and set a specific date for the meeting.


Vietnam evacuates thousands ahead of Typhoon Nari

Vietnam has begun evacuating more than 180,000 people from coastal areas in the path of Typhoon Nari. Residents will be evacuated to schools and public buildings in central provinces. The storm passed over the Philippines at the weekend, leaving 13 people dead, AP reported. The typhoon is expected to hit the central Vietnamese coast early on Tuesday morning with sustained winds of up to 133km per hour, causing possible flooding.


At least 27 killed by car bomb in northern Syria

A car bomb killed at least 27 people on Monday in the northern Syrian town of Darkoush, close to the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Dozens of people were wounded by the explosion in the market in a small rebel-controlled town 2km from the frontier, Reuters reported. Some of them were taken into Turkey for treatment. The blast killed at least three children, the Observatory said, adding that the death toll could rise because many of the wounded were in serious condition.


Red Cross won’t stop work in Syria despite kidnap of staff

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday that it would not stop work in Syria despite the weekend kidnapping of its staff, AFP reported. “We are completely committed to supporting the Syrian population in this difficult moment,” ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson told Swiss public radio. Six ICRC workers along with a Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer were abducted by gunmen on Sunday as their convoy drove from the Idlib province back to Damascus. Most of the kidnapped staff were Syrian, Watson said.


LA Airport flights delayed after dry ice explosion

A few flights have been delayed after a plastic bottle containing dry ice exploded at Los Angeles International Airport. A chemical reaction led to the blast Sunday evening in an employee bathroom in Terminal 2, AP quoted FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller as saying. No injuries were reported. Authorities closed the terminal as a precaution.


​Re-activation of Iranian-American trade relations

A joint chamber of commerce that will activate trade relations between the USA and Iran for the first time since 1979 has been officially registered in Tehran, said the head of the Iranian Central Bank Valiulla Seif in an October 14 interview. The decision, which “concerns mostly relations with American businessmen of Iranian origin,” was made after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to New York, when he spoke with his American counterpart by telephone. It was the two countries' highest political exchange since the Islamic Revolution in Iran interrupted diplomatic relations.


UK to ease visa system with China to attract investments - Osborne

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has unveiled the "next big step" in bilateral relations with China, announcing a new visa system allowing Chinese business leaders and rich tourists to visit the UK. Arriving on Sunday in Beijing for a five-day-trip, Osborne announced an £800 million plan for Chinese investment in Manchester Airport in an effort to provide 16,000 new jobs in one of the biggest developments since the London Olympics. Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG) will work with Manchester Airport Group, Carillion Plc and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to create the 'Airport City' project. Britain's third busiest airport seeks to build a new site with offices, hotels, logistics, and manufacturing firms. After the speech, Osborne was joined by London mayor Boris Johnson, visiting China with a separate delegation, for a question and answer session with students.


Brazil announces secure email to counter foreign spying

Brazil is creating a secure email system capable of shielding official communications from foreign attacks, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced Sunday. "We need more security on our messages to prevent possible espionage," Rousseff said on Twitter. The Federal Data Processing Service (SERPRO) was tasked to implement the system. "This is the first step toward extending the privacy and inviolability of official posts," Rousseff said. The move comes amid a spying scandal by the United States and Canada on Brazilian government agencies and economic sectors.


Four arrested on terrorism charges in London

Four people have been arrested by the British police in connection to terrorism, AFP reports. The suspects were detained by the armed Metropolitan police on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. They are now being held at a south London police station, the force said in a statement. Searches under the Terrorism Act 2000 have been carried out at six London addresses.